Originally published in the Scotsman on 13 August 2016
Loch Katrine (Loch Ketterin in c. 1591) is literally of ‘obscure’ origin. The name in Gaelic is Loch Ceiteirein. Ceiteirein is an old Gaelic word, possibly of Pictish origin, denoting ‘dusky, gloomy place’. The modern English form of the name using the woman’s name was coined by Walter Scott in his influential poem ‘Lady of the Lake’, first published in 1810. The name of the eponymous heroine however is Ellen, who gives her name in that book to Ellen’s Isle, the island in Loch Katrine. The original Gaelic form of the island was An t-Eilean Molach, ‘the lush isle’. Eilean in Gaelic means ‘island’, and seems to have been taken by Walter to somehow be the name of the heroine as ‘Ellen’. Scott’s poem was so popular that these names first used by Walter Scott were put onto Ordnance Survey maps in preference to their authentic Gaelic names.
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